How Using a Mood Tracker App Could Help Your Mental Health

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You track your nutrition and your workouts—why wouldn’t you track your mood? Mood tracker apps are gaining in popularity—there are nearly 500on Apple’s App Store.

They can be used by everyone, from those dealing with mental health conditions such as depression or bipolar disorder to those who just want to keep tabs on their stress levels.

These programs can do everything from helping you visualize trends to even generating reports you can share with a therapist or doctor. Though they are not a replacement for therapy, many of these programs also offer coping tools to help you deal with challenges you may be facing.

This article covers why a mood tracker app can be helpful, how this kind of app works, and where you can find one if you think using one might be beneficial to you.

Why Use a Mood Tracker App

Mood tracker apps are often more than just a place to record your emotions. Many of them allow you to record factors that may be affecting your mental health, such as sleep, nutrition, and exercise. 

You can also see how changes like starting therapy or medication are affecting your mental health and track your good mental health habits like journaling or meditation. Some apps also include evidence-based activities and resources to help your mood based on what you are reporting.

Reminders in mood trackers can be helpful—of course you know you should probably be getting more sleep, but smartphone apps can send you timely reminders to go to or prepare to go to bed. 

Mood trackers can also keep you honest about your self-reporting bias. Maybe you think you are getting eight hours of sleep a night, but a mood tracker app might help you see that you’re actually only getting six hours of sleep a night. 

How Does a Mood Tracker App Work?

Research shows that mood tracker apps can help people better identify their moods and, in turn, understand them. Awareness of one’s mood has been linked to better mental health outcomes. Apps that suggest coping tools such as cognitive restructuring prove to be helpful at reducing impulsivity if the user turns to them in a moment of difficulty. 

Additionally, apps can help people better communicate with mental health professionals by recording the data that someone can refer back to during an appointment. They can also help people feel more empowered meaning that they will be more inclined to be an active partner in collaborating on their care, rather than a passive consumer. Finally, there may also be somewhat of a digital placebo effect—where people have high expectations and a belief that these interventions will be helpful.  

Some apps are also beginning to use machine learning (computer systems that operate automatically using data input) to predict a user’s mood.

Some factors these apps use to predict:

  • Number of phone calls and text messages
  • Location changes based on GPS
  • Amount of ambient light or sound 
  • Physical movement based on the use of the phone’s motion detector 
  • Paralinguisticdata (how a person is speaking: pitch, rhythm, sound) 
  • Amount and pattern of usage of apps

Efficacy of Mood Tracker Apps

Research on apps using predictive technology is incredibly encouraging: in many of these studies, there was an accuracy rate of somewhere between 80 and 90% in predicting depressive and non depressive states. In another study, the researchers found that participants’ mental health improved because of the feelings of self-efficacy and empowerment over their own emotional states.

Who Should Use Them

While anyone can benefit from using a mood tracker app, those dealing with mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorders, might particularly benefit from tracking the fluctuations in their mood as well as related factors. This can help them begin to identify their own patterns and triggers as well as yield more data for them to share with their providers.

Research shows that the mood tracker apps that are the most helpful in reducing symptoms are the ones that provide education on things like cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and tools, rather than ones that solely log symptoms.

Mood Tracker Apps


Mood tracker apps are one of the most popular categories on smartphones’ app stores, so you have no lack of options with a simple search for mood tracker. If you do not have a smartphone or do not want to download an app, there are several web-based trackers, such as MoodTracker and MoodPanda.

Bearable

Bearable is chock full of bells and whistles to help you see the impact of myriad factors including energy levels, stress and physical symptoms such as headaches. If you love data crunching, Bearable provides multiple reports showing the correlations of how these factors are affecting you.

MoodCast

Depression can make you feel like a dark cloud is constantly hanging around you—Moodcast lets you record your moods as weather conditions. Is today stormy or sunny? You can also look back and see your “weather history” and daily reflections.

eMoods

eMoods was specifically developed for those with bipolar disorder. What makes this app different is that it includes features such as a medication tracker and safety planning for those dealing with suicidal ideation. 

Daylio 

If you are the kind of person who gets frustrated by apps and wishes you could just build your own, Daylio is a great option. It offers multiple options for customization, such as adding custom emojis or changing the prompts and reminders to things that you know will keep you more engaged. 

MindShift CBT

MindShift CBT draws from cognitive-behavioral therapy principles to provide you with tools to help you manage your moods, such as thought journaling, coping cards and tips about healthy habits.

Things to Consider Before Using a Mood Tracker App

While there is no lack of options for mood tracker apps and mental health apps, many of them have not been clinically proven to be effective; some have even been shown to be actively harmful.

A mood tracker app should never replace therapy or contact with a mental health professional, but if you are using one of these apps, just be aware that you may not be getting an experience consistent with best practices for cognitive behavioral therapy, for example.

You can always ask a mental health professional for their thoughts on a mood tracker app if you choose to download one.

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